Proactive Measures That May Reduce Your Risk
Although there are more than 100 different types of cancer, they are all caused by the uncontrolled division of damaged cells. The problem is that we are constantly exposed to carcinogens cancer causing substances found in many of the products we buy, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. While cancer has a genetic component, the good news is that, according to the World Health Organization, at least one-third of all cancers are preventable with simple lifestyle changes. Newer studies from the United Kingdom suggest this number may be closer to 45%.
The American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) notes that the foods we eat can either promote cancer or help to prevent it. Red meat and processed meats like bacon and sausage are among the pro-inflammatory foods that the AICR recommends avoiding since both have been linked to cancer. Studies also suggest that consuming large amounts of refined sugar or eating a high-fat diet can increase your risk. On the other hand, eating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in brightly colored fruits and vegetables can provide a wealth of phytochemicals that can help stimulate the immune system, prevent DNA damage, reduce oxidative damage, regulate hormones, decrease inflammation, and trigger the destruction of damaged cells.
Tobacco use and overindulging in alcohol are both proven to increase the risk of a variety of cancers. Other risky behavior includes unprotected sun exposure and the use of tanning beds, which significantly increase the risk of skin cancer. One habit that can help keep cancer at bay, however, is exercise. Boosting the amount of physical activity you participate in has consistently been shown to reduce the risk of a number of types of cancer, including breast, colon, and prostate cancer. This may be due to exercise’s impact on circulation, hormone levels, immunity, and weight. Aim to get 30 minutes or more of exercise at least five days per week for the most benefit.
Curcumin, ginger: and other anti-inflammatory herbs help to reduce chronic low-level inflammation that research suggests may promote the development of some cancers. Some preliminary studies also suggest that these herbs may possess compounds that discourage tumor formation.
Green tea: has been shown to have a strong protective effect against cancer in a number of studies. One study of 125 patients undergoing a colonoscopy that appeared in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that those who took a green tea extract had half the incidence of precancerous polyps. Another prospective study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that, among the nearly 50,000 men surveyed, those who consumed the most green tea had the lowest risk of developing advanced prostate cancer. Although most clinical trials use brewed green tea, a surprising study by the University of California, Los Angeles, suggests that drinking green tea may not be as effective as taking a supplement. Typical dosage: 100 mg of a standardized green tea extract.
Resveratrol: also shows promise as a chemoprotective supplement. While more studies are needed, one preliminary trial of 40 volunteers reported in the journal Cancer Research found that high doses of resveratrol may down-regulate insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a hormone that can prevent the death of cancer cells. Typical dosage: 250 mg daily.
Vitamin D: has piqued the interest of cancer researchers for its potential to protect against a wide variety of cancers, including breast, colon, prostate, pancreatic, and skin cancer. Long-term research has documented lower rates of breast cancer in premenopausal women who have higher blood levels of this nutrient. Other studies suggest that pairing vitamin D with calcium may lower the risk of all types of cancer. The problem is that many Americans suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. Those most at risk are people living in northern latitudes, people of color, and those who routinely avoid spending time outdoors. Because of this, some epidemiologists recommend more sun exposure, and/or taking 1,000 to 1,500 IU of supplemental vitamin D every day.